The pandemic has either closed off or limited the ways that the public can access these spaces. Haymarket is open for orders and pick-ups only, and Forbes has been closed to the public since the beginning of the pandemic. The library still offers book pick-up/drop-offs and online resources, but these are harder to access if you are without internet, a phone or smart device, and a place to charge your devices. As of December 4th, 2020, The Hampshire County Resource Center (one of the few spaces open to the public during the pandemic) went from being open five days a week to two days a week. Prior to this, they used to provide free access to a washer and dryer, showers, and case work services. They are now only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for continued access to Healthcare for the Homeless services, and for showers.
In the past, folks living outside (or with limited access to sheltered spaces) may have been able to break up time spent in freezing or extreme weather conditions by using spaces like Forbes, Haymarket or the Resource Center. But since December 2020, there have not been any consistently available community spaces to warm up, rest, shower, or do laundry. To make matters worse, the pandemic has pushed families and individuals who were already financially vulnerable over the edge, and out of their homes. Local service providers reported a dramatic increase in homelessness over the last few months. Newly houseless individuals, and individuals who have never been houseless before, have had to learn how to safely navigate extreme cold and weather conditions at a time when there is reduced accessibility to sheltered spaces and services.
Manna Community Warming Center was created in order to fill this gap and meet these essential needs. Since February 10th, 2021, the Warming Center has been open every day except Tuesdays and Thursdays (we chose these as our break days because the Hampshire County Resource Center is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, thus ensuring an available space for every day of the week).
Thank you to our community members who support us by volunteering their time and energy, as well as their material and monetary resources. The Warming Center team is excited and relieved to be able to provide a warm, quiet space, as well as free access to: a phone, shower, washer & dryer, Wi-Fi, computers, charging capabilities, hygiene supplies, & clothing
Our team has had the privilege of creating this space from scratch, and we are committed to making this a safe and comfortable space for all. This means that we follow all COVID safety precautions in order to keep each other safe. We work to maintain a trauma informed space that is harm reduction oriented. We recognize that maintaining such a space requires intention, and we are committed to learning from each other and from our community as we go. We hope to provide a space that offers safety and empowerment for those we serve, and for everyone involved.